Watching Your Dad Go Through Bankruptcy

On March 6, 2008, I received a call from my mom and dad that no one wants to receive.

Charlie: “Hello”
Mom and Dad: “Charlie, it’s mom and dad.” (mom’s got the phone, and I can tell something’s wrong)
Charlie: “What’s wrong? What happened? Did Grandpa die?” (more silence on the far end).
Mom: (mom starts sniffling into an explanation) “Charlie, the bank called us in today. They are going to liquidate all our assets and shutdown the farm.”
Charlie: “What!?! Why? Were you guys really that bad off? I didn’t know it was this bad?”
Mom: “Ya we are losing about $30 to $40 per pig. And it isn’t getting any better as corn prices keep going up.”
Charlie: “Put dad on, I want to talk to him.”
Dad: (dad is very slow to the phone and low toned) “Hey Charlie”
Charlie: “Dad what happened? You never said you were this bad off.”
Dad: “We thought we had things under control, but our expenses were starting to get out of control. The bank didn’t think we could make the money back with where were at or could be in the next couple of years.”
Charlie: “How are you feeling?”
Dad: (starts to sniffle and lets the crying out) “I’m not doing so well. I wish I could of done more.” (eventually I can’t make anything out that he’s saying)
Charlie: “Dad, I want to tell you one thing. Your identity is not in what the bank tells you. Your identity is in Christ. You raised five great kids, and continually showed us love. Your identity isn’t in the bank foreclosing.” (I hear the phone drop and Mom picks up the phone)
Mom: “Charlie, he can’t talk anymore…it’s hurting too much.”
Charlie: “Mom, tell Dad that I love him so much…he’s the Dad that played catch with me in the yard and showed me how to combine. His identity is in those things.”

Watching my dad and mom go through bankruptcy had to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen them going through. Even harder than the farming crisis’ in the late 70’s/early 80’s. My mom was working tooth and nail in the farrowing house (for you non-farm folks that is where the female pigs have their babies) and dad was working the managerial aspect of both the hog and crop operations (500+ acres). At one point, post bankruptcy, my mom even said to me, “Charlie, I always thought that no matter how bad things got we could always work harder to be able to get out of it.”

What happened after the bankruptcy?

After March 2008 I saw a big shift in my dad’s demeanor. He often became quiet during family gatherings, and especially at church. He felt like people were talking about him. Later on that year he was interviewed by National Hog Farmer (and the following year by CNN Money) about the state of the farming industry. The articles are a reality check of just how bad the landscape of Hog Farming Operations were across that midwest, and how deep the pain was for my dad. You can see see this in his quote:

“You really value your family and the relationships with friends — and your faith. You really see what’s important,” he says of the experience. “As for my future, we are still sorting that out. I doubt I will be involved with hogs. It would be hard to get involved again once your heart has been broken.”

From 2008 to 2010, I took over all the crop/land leases from my dad under my new corporation name to give my dad and mom time to emerge through the bankruptcy, and at the same time not lose all his machinery and land leases. Through this time I had  a great opportunity to not only learn the business side of farming 500+ acres, but also connect with my dad. I got to experience the highs (Summer 08 – $7.99 per bushel corn) and the lows (Dec 08 – $2.94 per bushel corn). Along with all the pressures that go with that. On top of that it gave me a great opportunity to connect with my dad, and let him know I was there for him, and wanted to see him emerge successfully. Through all it here are a few of things I learned by watching my dad go through bankruptcy.

Things to learn from a bankruptcy:

  •  Protect your family – between the time my dad called me and told me the bank was liquidating to Nov 09 (finalization of bankruptcy) people and companies were clawing at his assets. Just when you think “the man’s got you down” you soon realize that EVERYONE wants their money. Do whatever you can to protect yourself. Hire a lawyer. Keep track of all your expenses & income.
  • Be willing to change – if you are going through bankruptcy be willing to look at your failures, and learn from them. 100% of the time a bankruptcy is due to your expenses being greater than your income. Take an honest look at your pre-bankruptcy financial pictures, and ask yourself, “What could of I controlled? What would of I done different?” With that in mind, then consider post-bankruptcy a great opportunity for you. A chance for great change and success. The greatest thing you have is the lesson of the failure. Embrace it and move forward. In addition, if you have a spouse, be willing to change together. The devil wants nothing more than a bankruptcy to create a divide in your marriage. Renounce his lies, and trust in the Lord – the author and perfecter of your faith.
  • Be honorable – my dad displayed such great honor and character throughout the whole bankruptcy process. The banker even directly told me that he’s never met a more humble and honorable man who is/was going through bankruptcy. Don’t be shady about any of your operations, but be honorable in all of your business dealings.
  • Trust in the Lord25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

My parents experienced a lot of hardship through the whole situation, but I know that someday our whole family will understand the purpose in it all. Maybe you are going thru a similar type situation? If so, then continue to trust in the Lord. My father did. Thanks for being such a great dad!

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6 comments

  1. Sam Pittsbiurgh says:

    very good article…..i spoke to a fellow today who said the Waynesburg, PA house (where they buy hogs/beef, etc) was closing and a friend of mine who sells a few cattle each year in New Mart., WV is quittng as it does not pay..

    …in my family, Mom kept the checkbook and saved and spent wisely and we never wanted anythin……Pap was the breadwinner and came home form work and satarted working in the shop or on a second project….one paycheck was all that was needed….i’d like to think I’m like him and Mom…saga of a single man…:)

  2. Charlie says:

    Thanks Sam for the compliment. It is definitely hard right now for pig and cow farmers. With $6.50 corn it is hard to feed out livestock at those prices. I personally don’t see it getting any better, because if we have $5 gas by memorial day, then that will mean corn will go up right along with it!

    My dad has said to me that he’s sure glad he’s not hog farming anymore. Your friends in PA & WV will probably think the same someday!

    Thanks again for commenting. Aaron and I always appreciate our readers who engage in our articles! Thanks.

  3. Monica says:

    Hi Charlie,

    I was tearing up as I read your post, it’s so hard when the people you love fall on hard times. You were so right to tell your dad not to be defined by what the banks says, but to take comfort in the strength of his faith and the family he raised. It’s strange how some of the worst situations bring people closer, and I hope that things continue to improve for your mom and dad.

  4. ImpulseSave says:

    So heartbreaking. It can be so hard to have that burden on your family – and not feeling like you can provide, even for yourself. The only things that always gets you through is your faith and family. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Charlie says:

    Monica and ImpulseSave – Thanks so much for the nice comments! You are definitely right that through tribulations that we are often brought together. It’s funny how that happens naturally.

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